Born to Stand Out

Stand Out Socks co-founder Christian shares his business’s mission to empower learning disabled people towards financial independence 

The pandemic was life changing for many, including Ross Laing, his brother Christian, and Christian’s fiancée Natalie. Ross has Down’s syndrome, which was very high on the shielding level. “Ross moved in with our parents,” says Christian. 

Over time, his family watched Ross change from being funny and outgoing, to losing his confidence and spark. “I was furloughed and started selling vintage clothing,” explains Christian. “After Ross was jabbed and we could bubble, he helped me out with doing that.” But the family knew there was more they could do. 

A NEW SPIN ON SOCKS 

The link between socks and Down’s syndrome isn’t new – people with DS are born with an extra chromosome, which looks like a tiny sock under a microscope, plus we’re encouraged to wear odd socks for World Down Syndrome Day. “We decided to put our own spin on it,” says Christian. “The socks aren’t dull, so people say, ‘They’re a bit mad, where did you get them?’. The wearer then becomes an advocate for inclusion.” 

The trio launched Stand Out with three sock designs. The business has win the backing of Steven Bartleand Peter Jones CBE on Dragons’ Den, and employ a team of people with DS. 

Stand Out is run as a business, not a charity, and every pair of socks sold supports learning disabled people towards financial independence. “Everyone is paid for every hour they work,” reveals Christian. “Mark, who works here, is 33. He’d never had a paid job in his life – to give him his first pay slip was massive. Not just for him, but for us too.” 

CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO 

The Stand Out team aims to inspire other businesses by showing what’s possible, as Christian explains: “To choose not to diversify your workforce so you get fresh perspectives from all walks of life and all abilities is crazy to me. We’re proving there’s a place in business for everybody.” 

“I don’t think people appreciate what’s possible until they see it,” Christian tells us. Even Ross’s shenanigans on social media – from packing orders to relaxing with a beer – are helping change perceptions of what people with DS are capable of. 

The future looks bright for Stand Out, with plans to grow the team. “There are a lot more people out there who could do with help getting a job. It’s not a gimmick,” Christian asserts. “It’s a proper business. Stand Out will become known for being an inclusive workplace.” 

FOR MORE INFORMATION 

To support Stand Out Socks, head to www.standoutsocks.co.uk

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